Sustainability & Resource Productivity

Back to How We Help Clients

The McKinsey Center for Business and Environment

Providing insights and solutions so that economies—and the environment—can thrive.
McKinsey Center for Business and Environment

Why have we started the Center for Business and Environment?

Growth in the 21st century will not be about managing trade-offs between making profits and preserving the environment. Instead, new technologies and business models will allow companies, cities, and countries to use natural resources more productively. The organizations that master these processes will benefit not only in terms of cleaner air and water but also, we believe, in creating long-term resilience and competitive advantage.

At McKinsey, we have explored these ideas for years; our reports have broken new ground in developing data and analysis on issues ranging from examining deficiencies in the global water supply to making supply chains more energy efficient. The Center for Business and Environment is a natural outgrowth of this work. Through the center, we are working with businesses, governments, and nonprofits to tackle sustainability and resource-productivity-related problems. In doing so, the center can help create new sources of value and influence the development of markets in ways that improve both economic growth and resource use.

What are the center's priorities?

At any given time, the center focuses on a few selected initiatives, working with a range of partners, such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Institute, and Stanford University. Our priorities include:

  • The circular economy: The term refers to processes and practices that go far beyond recycling. In a circular economy, companies design components for re-use so they don't need not be remanufactured and develop service-based business models (i.e., leasing versus ownership, or innovative return policies) to help consumers re-configure their consumption patterns.
  • Urban transit: People need to move; transit systems need to change to meet their needs. But there is a veritable traffic jam of options. Sorting through them requires balancing economic, regulatory, accessibility, and mobility considerations. The Center is working with partners in many cities and regions to design urban transportation systems that reduce congestion and pollution. We are also involved with piloting experimental programs to assess best practices.
  • Energy transitions: Renewables, energy storage, distributed power, efficiency: Technologies related to these and other subjects could result in a dramatically different global energy system. The Center is working with private- and public-sector clients to assess the investment and regulatory issues associated with deploying more efficient, lower-carbon energy and to create new ways to deliver such systems.
  • Ecosystem services: Up to a quarter of the world's agricultural land is severely degraded, and 13 million hectares of forests are cleared each year. Restoring this land represents a major opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and to improve food security for millions of people. We are developing business models and solutions that value, protect, and restore the services provided by forests, oceans, wetlands, and other natural ecosystems.

How do we approach these issues?

To reframe the debate and trigger effective action, there needs to be: an authoritative fact base that enables economically sound decision making, leadership engagement from the top, and the development of concrete plans of action.

McKinsey has been thinking through issues related to sustainability and growth for many years. Through our own investment in knowledge and work on more than 2,500 resource-related projects worldwide, we have been part of efforts to address some of the world's most pressing natural-resource issues. For example, we have designed water-management systems, improved supply chains, and created green-growth strategies for entire countries. The center is where the assets that support these initiatives are maintained and renewed. It is also the place where, working with our partners, we turn rigorous analysis into real accomplishment.

Who are we?

The experts at the Center for Business and Environment and their partners all have extensive academic and practical experience on issues relating to sustainability and resource productivity. The center is part of a global network of people and institutions that are at the cutting edge in areas such as resource economics, materials science, ecosystem management, infrastructure engineering, city planning, and industrial design. We can also draw on a number of proprietary economic and change-management tools that McKinsey has developed. This is a long-term program for McKinsey—one to which we are fully committed and uniquely qualified for, given our work with organizations in many sectors, all over the world.

Featured experts

Shannon Bouton

Chief Operating Officer, Detroit

Steven Swartz

Partner, Southern California

Featured insights

Article

Urban mobility at a tipping point

– As more of the world’s cities become congested and polluted, new business models and technologies are emerging to solve... the mobility challenge.
Report

Saving the ocean from plastic waste

– An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste leaks into the ocean every year. Action in just five countries could stem... that tide.
Report

Europe’s circular-economy opportunity

– Adopting circular-economy principles could not only benefit Europe environmentally and socially but could also generate a net... economic benefit of €1.8 trillion by 2030.

New at McKinsey

Blog post

A sea change in how we use plastics

– Many environmental issues are so big that no single institution can tackle them. Take the leakage of plastics into the world’s oceans. By 2025, a staggering 250 million metric tons of plastic are projected to be in the ocean unless action is taken.